Preston Sturges directed his Oscar-winning script in this satire of a bum who rises to become governor through a corrupt political machine.
In a banana republic drunk Tommy (Louis Jean Heydt) tries to kill himself, because he used to work in a bank. So bartender Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy) tells him and a dancer (Steffi Duna) his story.
A politician (William Demarest) tells the bum Dan how to vote for $2 with another name. McGinty votes in 37 precincts and asks for $74. At the club the politician gets the boss (Akim Tamiroff) to pay McGinty, who grabs food. The boss gets McGinty a suit and hires him to do collecting for protection. McGinty persuades fortune-teller Juliette to pay. Big Benny socks him, but McGinty wins the fight. Then he intimidates another man. The boss lets McGinty keep all the money. In his armored car the boss wrestles McGinty. Maxwell (Thurston Hall) refuses to pay graft to Alderman McGinty but runs after him.
The boss asks McGinty if he wants to be mayor and tells him to get married, because women have the vote now. McGinty says no; but his secretary Ruth (Muriel Angelus) offers to be his public wife. After the wedding Ruth says she has to go home. She was married before and has two children. Later she shows McGinty a large apartment. McGinty is elected and comes home drunk. Ruth helps him into bed. McGinty spends money on municipal improvements. Maxwell owns a bus line and does not want public buses; so McGinty suggests the number 75,000. At home McGinty finds Ruth with George (Allyn Joslyn) and learns that she goes to dinner with him, who used to propose to her. McGinty kisses her and gets rid of George. McGinty reads the children to sleep. Ruth urges him to do good, but he says he can't buck the party.
McGinty runs for governor, and the politician speaks for him as an opponent accuses him of graft. Ruth is proud of McGinty, who takes the oath as governor. The boss congratulates McGinty and says they need new roads, a dam, and a new capitol building. McGinty says the people don't need them and offers to pay back the boss from his salary. McGinty says he will end child labor, sweatshops, and tenements. The boss blames Ruth, and they fight until police stop them. McGinty tells Ruth that he liked working as a child. McGinty is arrested. Ruth visits him, and George says the judge denied his writ. The boss hopes McGinty gets ten years. The politician dressed as a cop helps the boss and McGinty escape. McGinty calls Ruth and tells her about money he saved. Back at the bar the dancer says McGinty is a liar and tells Tommy to go home. The politician is a waiter, and the boss fights with McGinty over money.
This political satire shows the corruption in democratic
politics when politicians succumb to greed.